The green truck love was different from the frozen love, from the pre-prom love, from the rubble mountain maybe love. Different from the pulling love, different from the flash card love, different from the swollen cheeks love, different from the ignored letter love. It was different from the futile fullness love. It is different from the “maybe I could” love.
I tried to say “I love you” to him in a green truck, on a warm late summer night, a couple of hours before college took him three hours away—at the time, a barrier too big to bear. I felt like I had to say it but I couldn’t get it out and I tried hard but then he told me not to say it, but we both knew the secret. Not saying something doesn’t make it less true.
He said it to me in the snow, and I froze just like the flakes and ran back up the hill. We ignored it as we walked home, but I dropped my phone and we couldn’t find it and while we looked my hands froze and he tried to warm them up in his but his fingers were frozen, too. He apologized for what he said earlier—”stop; listen, dummy, I love you too.” We kissed but our lips were as cold as our fingers, no warmth there.
I pleaded with him the last night we were a we, the night before my junior prom. He just didn’t have it anymore but I still did. I took my sister and had a horrible time. The “I love you” lingered and stung for a while after that, the first one always does.
He made me think maybe, a year later. There was a new him, a best friend him. We went on a date of putt-putt and coffee. We climbed up to the top of a construction rubble mountain to look at the stars and consider the maybe. He missed the rubble mountain maybe, but kissed me against the brick of my house later that night. I shied away from that maybe—college was its own looming mountain to climb. I miss that him.
I felt a small pull, a very college-isn’t-supposed-to-be-this-way kind of pull, for a tall blonde version of him late in the fall. I made him into something he wasn’t, and fell a little bit into the dream I made. Everyone has these little pulls—the pull that comes from the dream, not the person.
She wrote it on a flash card, scribbled while drunk. I kept it, I keep it, I shouldn’t but I do. I commit it to memory because that’s what flash cards are for. She only allowed herself to say it secretly. That doesn’t make it any less real, I learned that lesson before.
I meant it in my mind in a muggy mid-May afternoon. Her cheeks were swollen and her eyes were closed and her feet flatly and firmly against the ground. Sweat plastered this baby brown curl to her neck, she held a peony to her nose. The thought knocked me flat: “Wow, I love her. Her.”
She made these three words seem too small to hold my meaning. I never did get around to finding the right words before she left—the secret means more than I ever did. I thought maybe I could make her understand make her feel make her hear make her see and so I included the words in a last-ditch attempt to convince her to be brave and love me back. A last gasp to end my letter that was ignored. She signed her response with a single initial. I wasn’t worth her full name.
They say you should never try to convince someone to love you.
I scream it silently whenever I see her. It’s hopeless, pathetic, futile, to be so full of love and have to keep it. Isn’t the point to give it away? I want her to know, I understand her I feel her I hear her I see her I love her. I have to keep it, and it fills me up in a never-enough way.
A new face today was bright and open and welcome as we spoke for the first time. They make me forget about the green truck love, the frozen butt love, the pre-prom love, the rubble mountain maybe love, the futile love, and the all the loves in between. And this was special. This was new. This was a maybe I could again love. And this is worth exploring.